Han has to admit, he’d assumed those moments staring into Leia’s eyes in Bespin were going to be his last moments ever. Who survives being frozen in carbonite? No one, that’s who. And he figured even in the one-in-a-billion chance he would live (because he’s a man who doesn’t listen to the odds), Jabba wouldn’t let him live much longer anyway. No, Jabba kills people for much less than all of Han’s transgressions.
It wouldn’t have been the worst way to end his life, sure, a bit anticlimactic that he didn’t go out guns blazing, but hey, he’s been learning to temper his hot nature these past few years. The Princess would be proud.
The Princess. Who could have ever dreamed that she’d still be tolerating his presence, much less confessing her love for him? Sure, he’d known for a while now, he could see it in the way she looked at him. But he never thought she’d admit it out loud, and truth be told, he’d been enjoying the game.
They’re well past game playing now.
Leia’s frosty exterior had melted away with one kiss, and she’d almost instantly become affectionate. Every touch from her was electric, and she wasn’t shy about giving them, either. He’s been with women before, even thought he might be in love a time or two, but this time is entirely different.
Han can look at Leia and see a galaxy of opportunity, a future. He can tell what she’s thinking from the set of her shoulders, or take a cue without even having to see her. What means the most to him, what is truly remarkable, is the way she’s let him inside her defenses. He realizes now how much she’d trusted him for a long time now, how she’d led him to become a better version of himself simply by believing in him.
When he saw the pain in her eyes as he plotted his escape from responsibility in Hoth, he realized he couldn’t betray her trust. And when she’d stubbornly refused to evacuate on her transport ship, when she might have martyred herself when it wasn’t necessary, he realized she needed him to balance out her overwhelming sense of service to her people. He could’ve never left her behind. He thinks they were bound together long before their paths crossed on that Death Star.
But now, now that he’s truly dying, his last moments are spent staring into the eyes of his son. When he reaches up to touch Ben’s face, he remembers the first time he held him as an infant, and he knows he wasn’t wrong to try. That Leia wasn’t wrong to keep believing in him. Despite everything, despite this ultimate betrayal, there is and will always be good in him. Just like his grandfather.
And as he falls, the wind screaming in his ears, he closes his eyes. He sees Leia’s face again, on that day so many lifetimes ago. His physical pain subsides, and he can feel her presence despite the star systems between them. I love you, she tells him.